Friday, October 28, 2022

The Purpose of Education

I know why most of my students are studying ESL.  They simply need to speak English in order to get along, living in the US.  Those who already use English OK want to speak it better because people realize the importance of good communication in today's world.

I hope that in addition to these practical reasons they come to enjoy, as much as I do, simply exploring all the crazy quirks of our eccentric language.

After reading the "aims and purposes" set forth by various courses and schools, I have been thinking about language in relation to education in general.  I remember the stated purpose of education in the public schools I attended eons ego.  It was: "to create good citizens".  It's true that for a democracy to succeed, it needs an educated population capable of logical thought and sound decision making. They must vote for reasonably sensible regulations and representatives. (In the intervening years, much of our country has been woefully deficient in living up to this educational goal.)

However, when I quoted that stated purpose to my parents they were appalled and unhappy.  This was the McCarthy era.  I didn't realize, at the time, how the slogan carried definite connotations of brainwashing!

In graduate school, a French teacher brought up the subject of educational goals; so I tried out the slogan on her.  She, too, reacted very negatively, exclaiming, "Non!" She was adamant that this was incorrect.  I cannot remember the lofty goals that she then stated were the true aim of learning.  However I know I was more than a little annoyed that she totally dismissed my understanding of the aims of the school systems in which I would be teaching.  This was MY country and this was the viewpoint that MY schools held, for better or for worse.

Personally, of course, I value education simply for its "entertainment value".  I am happy if I'm increasing my knowledge and enjoy nothing more than an "aha" moment.

So what is the ultimate purpose of education, or what SHOULD it be -- regardless of an individual school's motto?

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